The Lake Oswego City Council voted Tuesday, May 19, to move forward with the rezoning of two properties to allow for multi-family affordable housing — a plan that could start to pave the way for more affordable options for people in need.
The council also authorized the city manager to waive application fees.
During the council's 2020 goal setting meeting in January, the council landed on a goal and initiative to "Plan for future population and business growth to conserve the community's character and quality of life." Further, the goal said the city should "begin work to construct at least one new affordable housing project by rezoning the Boones Ferry Road staging area to allow for an affordable housing development."
The two-acre Boones Ferry Road staging area is located at the southwest corner of Boones Ferry Road and West Sunset Drive.
The second property that was approved for rezoning alongside the Boones Ferry Road staging area was a new opportunity that The Sisters of the Holy Names proposed: affordable workforce housing on the former Marylhurst University campus.
Two months ago the Sisters approached the city about rezoning the property so it would permit a portion of the property to be used for affordable workforce housing.
"This would help support the local workforce and increase the supply of needed housing in Lake Oswego. It could also reduce traffic pressure on adjacent Highway 43 by providing housing options for some of the 400 employees of Mary's Woods," read the Sisters' press release issued this week. "The Sisters intend to continue to preserve historic resources on the property, and to maintain the remainder of the 40-acre campus for nonprofit uses and open space."
According to the press release, the Sisters are working with Mercy Housing Northwest — an affordable housing nonprofit organization — and the rezoning process would begin this summer and include community outreach.
"We believe they are consistent with the City Council's goals and the initiative you've articulated previously," said Planning and Building Services Director Scot Siegel, adding that now is a good time to capitalize on housing bonds through Clackamas County and Metro. "If the city is wanting to partner with or wanting to solicit proposals from private or nonprofit affordable housing developers, or wishing to partner with Metro or Clackamas County to do the same, we know that we're in a competition with other jurisdictions to advance that."
The affordable housing definition the council follows relates to multi-family housing consisting of at least 20 units that are affordable to households earning 80% or less of the area's median income, which Siegel said is in line with Metro and Clackamas County's affordable housing criteria.
Unlike the Marylhurst property, the Boones Ferry Road staging area is owned by the city and is mostly zoned for office-commercial use, with a small portion zoned for high-density residential.
"A comprehensive plan amendment and zone change is necessary for the site (to) be fully developed with multifamily housing or mixed-use. The Lake Forest Neighborhood Plan allows for rezoning of properties for high-density residential use provided the site is located along an arterial street, such as Boones Ferry Road," the staff report reads. "If authorized by the City Council, staff will work with the Planning Commission to evaluate and recommend zoning options for affordable workforce housing on the BFR site, including any options with commercial (mixed-use) development that would complement affordable housing."
Public outreach and the rezoning process would likely begin in summer, which would help "meet the Council's goal of preparing the BFR site for a Metro Housing Bond funded project. Metro and Clackamas County have limited funds for these projects, and there is a window in which the City can partner with them to facilitate development of affordable housing on properties that it controls," the staff report reads. "The Sisters too have a window in which they would like (to) complete the rezoning process so that their partner Mercy Northwest can apply for funding in January 2021."
Also during the Tuesday meeting, the City Council authorized Mayor Kent Studebaker to sign a letter supporting a grant application to the State Department of Land Conservation and Development for work on House Bill 2001, which requires cities with more than 25,000 residents — or within Metro — to allow "middle housing" like duplexes, triplexes and other multi-unit, clustered housing options to be built on land zoned for single-family homes.
"The DLCD grant if awarded would leverage $20,000 in City general funds (Planning Department, Long Range Planning Budget) to bring in $45,000 in state funds for consulting services for the City's planning under HB 2001," the staff report reads. "While City staff has the expertise and skills to conduct the proposed grant-funded work (urban design analysis and a pattern book), we do not have the capacity due to workload. If the City is not awarded the grant, the cost would come out of the City's general fund, or the work may have to be deferred or dropped from our work plan."
The grant would help the city jump-start its work on HB 2001 by drafting model code and minimum requirements to be compliant with the bill.
Councilor John LaMotte questioned why they would do work on this before the state releases model code and minimum requirements for compliance.
Siegel said the city is able to do the groundwork for what it knows neighborhoods will need now — data collection and presenting information about neighborhoods. The city can then engage in a larger community conversation in 2021-2022 about how they will respond to the minimum requirements.
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